P.O. Box 206 Piermont, NY 10968 , United States Call Seller 845.359.4305


N.M.U. Membership Meeting March 1944

$ 6,000
  • Description
    Signed to Rear: "N.M.U. Membership Meeting" March 1944 Alzira Peirce.
    Alzira Peirce (1908 - 2010) was an artist and political activist who worked through the Great Depression and World War II. Spending most of her first decade in Montana, Alzira returned to New York City at age 13 and would devote the majority of her life to artistic and political practice in the northeast of the United States.

    Alzira studied in New York at the Art Students League and in Paris at either the Academie Colarossi or Julian, producing many paintings and drawings. While in New York, Alzira met her first partner, artist Waldo Peirce, at a Matisse show, and the two had twins together in 1930 and eventually married. Although Waldo was married four times, and Alzira was married twice, the family they created together became central in Waldo’s work, as well as in Alzira’s, and depicted an environment of playfulness, intimacy, and creative endeavors. It also was integrated into their artistic circle.

    Through this relationship, Alzira was connected with Waldo’s circle of friends and contemporaries, which included fellow World War I ambulance drivers Ernest Hemingway and one time Rockland resident John Dos Passos. Waldo painted Alzira with Hemingway at the Silver Slipper, the dance hall area of the original Sloppy Joe’s in Key West, Florida, and she was photographed with him on his boat "Pilar" on a fishing expedition. Their children when very young were photographed with Gertrude Stien in Paris. Alzira was no doubt influenced by the work and ideas of her husband and the artists he surrounded himself with.

    Alzira’s own work reflects her bohemian family lifestyle, her taste for the avant-garde, and her political activism. Her paint strokes suggest movement and activity, the figures inhabiting her spaces are not static, but lively and engaged. Her first known exhibition was at the Art Institute of Chicago, alongside Waldo, in 1932. Following this show, Alzira’s works were exhibited at the Carnegie International during the 1930s, at the Whitney Museum of Art, as well as in other galleries throughout New York City and Rockland County, apparently dividing her time between Haverstraw and Greenwich Village. Also active in Maine, while living in Bangor for a period with her husband and children, Alzira was commissioned to paint murals depicting historical scenes in two Maine towns (Ellsworth and South Portland) in1938-9 as part of the Works Progress Administration of the New Deal.

    Aside from her personal practice, Alzira was engaged in the socialist leaning artistic community in New York. In 1934, she signed the artists’ petition calling for John D. Rockefeller Jr. to allow Diego Rivera to finish his mural in the Rockefeller Center, including the controversial figure of Lenin. She was active in New York and New Mexico in union organizing and painted a meeting of the National Maritime Union - the first desegregated union, which took place in Manhattan in 1944. A year later, in August 1945, Alzira orchestrated the National Maritime Union and United Seamen’s Service Seamen’s Art Exhibition at the ACA gallery.

    Alzira volunteered for the Army in 1942 and worked with the American Red Cross Motor Corps, eventually becoming captain, and earning the respect and admiration of those she worked with. Doris J. Leeds of the Women’s Auxiliary Corps Training Center described Alzira as, “poised, dignified, [and] at home anywhere.” Indeed, it is clear in examining her life that Alzira excelled at many roles, meeting the demands of each, adapting to the needs of the time, and continuing to engage in her artistic practice.

    Further to the opening of the Whitney’s Exhibition ‘An Incomplete History of Protest’ the above painting of 1944 depicts another facet of early social change and resistance. The artists’ union AAA was supported during the latter part of the Great Depression, their most vocal and active period of organization, by members of the National Maritime Union (N.M.U.). Importantly the N.M.U. was the first non-segregated union. They were a crucial support to the Artists' mobilization. The painting depicts a membership drive in 1944. This union’s members gained a significant voice at this time, deservedly so, as the members contributed a large part to the American Merchant Marine, whose members were crucial to the war effort. The N.M.U.’s members actually suffered higher percentile losses in the war greater than even the U.S. Marine Corps, 1 in 25 versus 1 in 36 men.
  • More Information
    Origin: United States, New York
    Period: 1920-1949
    Materials: Oil on Canvas
    Condition: Excellent. Gently cleaned.
    Creation Date: 1944
    Styles / Movements: Modern, Mid Century
    Book References: A People's Art History of the United States: 250 Years of Activist Art and Artists Working in Social Justice Movements, page 163-171 Publisher: The New Press ASIN: B01FIX5XUU
    Catalog References: https://marketplace.uidaho.edu/C20272_ustores/web/store_cat.jsp?STOREID=39&CATID=139
    Article References: http://www.ciscohouston.com/essays/nmu.shtml
    Dealer Reference #: IC
    Incollect Reference #: 201451
  • Dimensions
    W. 36 in; H. 28 in;
    W. 91.44 cm; H. 71.12 cm;
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